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story.lead_photo.caption Helen Wilbers/For the News TribuneMichelle Kidwell, Callaway County’s emergency management director, demonstrates how to set up a disinfectant fogger machine recently purchased by the county.

CARES Act funds are helping clean up Callaway County.

That's the goal, anyway, for the disinfectant foggers the county has purchased and made available for borrowing.

Two EMist Electrostatic Sprayers are currently stationed at the Callaway County Emergency Operations Center, with a third rolling unit and a hand-held unit on the way.

Michelle Kidwell, who heads the EOC and serves on the county's CARES Act funding committee, demonstrated how to use the machines Tuesday at Callaway Electric Cooperative.

"(The committee asked), 'What's something we can do that would really benefit a majority of people in the county?'" she said. "COVID-19's not going to be here forever, hopefully, but the flu and other viruses will be. We thought this would be a good investment for Callaway County and the community."

The machines allow a user to rapidly dispense disinfectant through a large area. Kidwell said it took perhaps half an hour to fog the entire Callaway Senior Center, even with no prior experience using the EMist. The foggers give each particle of disinfectant a slight electrostatic charge, meaning that instead of simply floating through the air, the particles are attracted to surfaces.

A fact sheet from EMist claims using the machines, a single person could cover 54,000 square feet of space in only one hour, using just a single gallon of disinfectant in the process.

The three rolling units cost the county $4,000 each, and the handheld unit came in at $1,600. Also on order are a couple of extra batteries ($200 each) and some straps that turn a rolling unit into a convenient backpack. The money comes from $5.2 million in CARES Act funding received by the county.

Despite the price-tag, the county doesn't plan to charge people who borrow the machines, Kidwell said. They're available to local businesses, organizations, schools, churches and municipal governments — but not families or individuals, except in extraordinary circumstances, she said.

"They're purchased with public funds, so we want them to be available for public use," she explained.

If, for example, someone goes home sick from work with suspected COVID-19, the workplace might normally have to shut down for an entire day for cleaning. The county hopes using the EMist machines to rapidly disinfect spaces will mean less lost productivity.

Stephanie Vollmer, Missouri Girls Town director of development, was in the audience at Tuesday's demonstration and said she's likely to borrow the machines in the future, even though the facility hasn't yet seen any cases of COVID-19.

"With flu and strep and everything we get, this means we won't have to (empty) the building," she said.

The county asks people who borrow the machines to use only Danolyte disinfectant, in order to prevent multiple chemicals from mixing inside the machine and potentially producing toxic fumes. Danolyte is available for free at Fulton Medical Center, where two machines — one owned by the county and another by the hospital — are producing up to 100 gallons of the disinfectant solution each day.

"We were concerned that as COVID-19 is still here there might not be enough (Danolyte), and what if the first machine breaks down?" Kidwell said.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency lists Danolyte among disinfectants able to destroy the SARS-COV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19. It's also able to eliminate staphylococcus, C. diff, MRSA, listeria, legionella and the influenza virus. The spray must be allowed to sit on surfaces for at least 10 minutes to be fully effective.

Danolyte contains hypochlorous acid, made by combining salt and water in precise proportions and applying current. It's also produced within the human body and won't harm people, plants or animals it comes into contact with, Kidwell said.

That means it can be used to fog a single room without having to evacuate the entire building.

"If someone walks in while you're spraying, they're not going to drop dead," she said.

Nevertheless, people operating the machines are advised to wear an N95 face mask and use gloves, she said.

For more information or to request use of an EMist machine, contact Kidwell at 573-592-2486, 573-592-2480 or [email protected].

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